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Tue, Sep 28, 2004

But Can It Fight?

Article: Pilots Question Testing Of Combat Capabilities

The V-22 may have risen like the Phoenix from the ashes of two fatal crashes four years ago, but can it do the job it was built to do? That question, posed by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, comes after the Pentagon admitted the Osprey wasn't tested in the "most severe maneuvers." The reason: executives at Bell's plant in Arlington (TX) and Boeing's helicopter facility in Pennsylvania feared such maneuvers would damage the aircraft.

Does that mean the V-22 might be vulnerable? Does the fact that some violent maneuvers, such as those necessary in evading ground fire, were deleted from the evaluation course mean there are undisclosed flight problems with the aircraft?

"The tactical implications of this limitation have been carefully considered and will continue to be reviewed," said the Pentagon's chief weapons tester, Tom Christie, in an exclusive interview with the Fort Worth paper.

Some veteran helicopter warriors don't like it. "The V-22 won't do the mission it was designed to do," said Bill Lawrence, a former helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He once oversaw the V-22 test program, but retired in 1989, before testing began, according to the Star-Telegram. "For Christie's office to come right out and say that they didn't do the testing simply means they absolutely know the V-22 cannot operate where the average Marine combat pilot is going to have to take it in order to survive."

But Boeing's chief V-22 test pilot, Tom MacDonald, disagrees. "We don't feel there are going to be any limitations on maneuvering this airplane reasonably," he told the Star-Telegram. "Everything you fly has some limits."

Quoting a source close to the testing regime, the Star-Telegram reported pilots specifically skipped a series of violent defensive maneuvers after they were warned by engineers the tests might cause severe rotor damage. In fact, tough but routine tests actually did damage the aircraft.

FMI: www.pma275.navair.navy.mil

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